As I was leaving the vet’s office, I was going through all of the scenarios in my mind of the Doggie Department of Social Services (if there is such a thing) coming and taking my sweet (and pleasantly plump) dog from me.
You see, at our well-check appointment, the vet insisted that I put my dog on a strict diet as she was about 10 pounds overweight. That may not seem like much, but for a dog, that can be quite a lot!
He proceeded to detail for me all of the potentially unpleasant consequences of her excess weight –everything from diabetes to cancer. Needless to say, I left his office that day feeling really down on myself and my ability to be a good dog mom.
After I recovered from my seIf- imposed pity party, I realized it was my responsibility as a pet parent to figure out the best, most nutritious diet for my sweet girl. A diet of quality food that she would enjoy eating, keep her weight within an optimal and healthy range and ultimately be the important ingredient in keeping her free of numerous health issues from allergies to cancer.
That is where my research began.
Of course trying to find the best diet seemed quite overwhelming. It can certainly be quite daunting and confusing; especially with so many different options and opinions – even among trusted medical professionals.
With all of the pet recalls on commercially branded dog foods that have been issued just this past year alone, I knew I needed to carefully explore all options. I began reading all labels of everything I was feeding my dog, including dog treats.
I was quite shocked at all of the fillers and sub-standard ingredients used by many major brands in dog food.
So as my search continued, I came across a seemingly popular diet I had never heard of – The raw food diet or also commonly called the BARF diet. Sounds appetizing, right? BARF stands for: Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods and also for Bones and Raw Food. This diet basically mimics what your dog would eat if he were out in the wild.
So what does this raw diet entail?
It is a meal made up of meat and veggies; that’s it. Half of your dog’s meal will be the meat and vegetables will make up the rest.
After a lot of research, I decided, why not? Let’s give it a try!
If you have an open mind regarding your dog’s diet, then keep reading. I will give you the step-by-step process of transitioning your dog to the BARF diet as well as what to do and the potentially disastrous pitfalls to avoid.
The very first thing to know is that the food is completely raw, and that includes the bones. Never, under any circumstances, should you give your dog cooked bones; as they can easily splinter and cause internal damage. Also, some people have stated that it might be easier on your dog’s stomach if you switch the food from kibble to BARF without any transition; provided you start simple.
If you can, try and get your meat from a butcher to ensure its freshness. Remember, in the BARF diet; all the food is raw. To be on the safe side, when you are switching your dog to BARF, you can start off with just meat for a few days.
Once your dog has comfortably settled into this, you can start adding some blended veggies such as carrots. You could use a blender or food processor for your veggies. Through my personal experience, I have found that it is easier to get my dog to eat vegetables when it is in liquid form; provided it is mixed with the meat. Using a blender and pureeing helps to break down the veggies’ cell walls that your dog cannot digest otherwise. Once these walls are broken down, your dog will get all the vital nutrients and enzymes he needs.
Once your dog is comfortable with the meat and vegetables diet, you can start adding richer foods like eggs and some cheeses such as cottage cheese. Try adding a variety of different veggies to make sure they get plenty of the much needed vitamins and nutrients.
The choice of veggies is totally up to you. The trick is in mixing it up a bit so it doesn’t taste dull. To make appropriate choices on the types of veggies, it is good to know the nutritional values of each veggie and its benefits. Carrots are a top favorite because of the high percentage of potassium, calcium and vitamins that it offers. You can add green veggies on some days along with carrots because greens contain vitamins A and C. Watercress and mustard greens are excellent choices for aiding in cleaning out your dog’s intestines.
It would be wise to stay away from broccoli and cabbage as they can increase gas in your dog. Once, I made the mistake of giving my dog broccoli one night and the after effects were disastrous.
It was the middle of winter, but I was compelled to sleep with my windows open because the smell was so bad. I will never make that mistake again!
Also, remember to keep away onions and potatoes from your dog’s diet.
Onions can cause problems in dogs if eaten in large quantities. Apart from that, you wouldn’t want to be kissed by a dog that just ate onions! Potatoes should be avoided because your dog cannot digest it well.
Also included in the raw dog diet, are raw meaty bones such as chicken backs, necks, wings, or turkey necks. They are soft enough for a dog to chew and eat and they also provide exercise for your dog’s jaw and upper body muscle. These bones are excellent for your dog to eat due to their high nutritional value. If you have a dog that tends to chock on their bones or an older dog whose teeth are not that strong, you can always coarsely grind up the bones and sprinkle it on their food.
Another very good supplement to add is oils such as fish oil because it contains essential fatty acids such as omega-3. These fatty acids support the heart and are also important to maintain a healthy skin and coat. They will also help with regulating your dog’s blood pressure (yes it does matter!). Another benefit of essential fatty acids is less shedding, which can be a blessing to owners whose dogs tend to shed constantly. Essential fatty acids also help to reduce fleas in your dog.
What are the possible benefits of having your dog on a raw food diet?
Well for starters, you will notice a considerable change in their breath. You may find this hard to believe because of the notion that giving your dog raw food could cause bad breath; but this is not true. You see, the raw dog diet does not contain any synthetic preservatives that can cause bad breath.
You will also notice a difference in their teeth because chewing on the raw meat and bones cleans your dog’s teeth naturally. Over a period of time, you will also see an improvement in your dog’s skin and coat. Gradually, any skin problems will disappear and you will see a favorable change in their coat. Their coat could become deeply colored, glossy and thick.
The raw dog diet also improves the dog’s immune system due to the proper balance of fatty acids and pure nutrients. This is also an excellent diet for dogs that are overweight; as the raw food diet can increase your dog’s metabolism; thereby helping to lose weight
Lastly, as it goes without saying, the raw food diet will change a dog’s stools. During the first few weeks, it is not uncommon for your dog to go through a detox period where you might see their stools contain a little more mucous than before. However, once they get through this detox period, you will notice that your dog’s stools are smaller and degrade into the ground faster.
The main issue though that tends to make some people very nervous about this diet is the fact that you are giving your dog raw meat. When you think of raw meat, especially raw chicken, words like salmonella poisoning and E Coli instantly come to mind.
That’s why some people think that the raw dog diet could be worse for your dog than the commercially-branded dog foods out there. Keep in mind though that the raw food you give to your dog can be perfectly safe for them, provided you handle it properly. Make sure to defrost it properly and keep it in the fridge for the appropriate time. Clean all utensils and surfaces that you used to prepare the raw food. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the meat. This will help to keep the bacteria down not only in your dog’s food but also in your environment and it will keep your family safe as well.
Since a dog has a shorter digestive tract than we do, the raw food would move out of their systems much more quickly. We could assume that the less time it spends in the digestive tract, the less likely it will form bacteria.
So, now that I have explained what the BARF diet entails, do you think it could be a good option for your dog?
Well, it is always a good idea to do your own research. The next step is to speak to your vet and obtain his or her professional opinion and weigh that against your own research. Lastly, consider your lifestyle and comfort level in terms of whether you have the time, patience and desire to prepare a raw diet or maybe purchasing food that has already been prepared is a more logical solution. Commercial dog food might be a better choice for you due to the ick factor of having to prepare raw food and grinding bones for your dog.
If you like the idea of the raw food diet but you are just not sure you can deal with actually handling raw meat and bones, then you are in luck; with the raw food diet becoming more popular with dog owners, more and more companies are developing food that is part of the raw food diet and can be delivered to you already prepared. Many grocery stores and pet stores are also beginning to add refrigerated cases containing raw food options for your dog.
The raw food diet does not appeal to every dog owner, nor does it for every dog. Some dogs may thrive on it while others may not. It may not be the perfect answer for your dog but the benefits that come from it are worth a try and there really is no harm in it.
This information is based solely on my independent research and I suggest you consult your vet before beginning this or any new diet for your dog.
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